A-League Week 23 was the round that saw some sides finals chances completely slip away whilst others missed good opportunities to push ahead of the pack.
Friday night saw Gold Coast United return to winning ways after four matches without saluting. They brushed aside bottom-placed North Queensland Fury 4-0 to bridge the gap with third-placed Adelaide United whilst essentially ending faint hope the Fury had of pushing into the final six.
On Saturday, we were treated to two thrilling encounters involving both the Melbourne sides. Fist off it was the Victory taking on arch rivals Sydney FC at the Sydney Football Stadium with a 1-1 draw the end result.
The reigning champions were back to their best in the first half and could have quite easily been a few goals up if it weren't for the inspirational defending of Rodrigo Vargas and solid keeping of Michael Petkovic.
Against the run of play, Danny Allsopp scored his first goal since returning to the Victory, early in the first half and it looked as though the visitors would complete a smash and grab job on Sydney until Finnish import Juho Makela leveled in injury time. The draw leaves Sydney six points out of the finals race and with a slim hope of making it as the Victory missed a golden opportunity to almost guarantee themselves finals action for a third straight season.
Following that clash, the Heart kept their hopes alive with a 1-1 away draw at Perth Glory. Both sides had their chances in a fairly even encounter until Perth's Todd Howarth netted his first of the season just after the half-hour-mark.
But enter Alex Terra who produced possibly the goal of the season with a stunning overhead kick in the 70th minute to finally beat Glory keeper Tando Velaphi who had kept his side ahead with a string of top shelf saves.
A win would have seen the home side move up to fifth but they were unable to produce the goods when it was needed as the Mariners took second spot with a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Matt Simon and substitute John Hutchinson.
Gold Coast United:4 (Bruce DJITE 22'/43', Shane SMELTZ 52', Chris HAROLD 83') North Queensland Fury: 0 Friday, 14 January 2010 Skilled Park, Robina Local kick-off: 7:30pm Referee: Matthew Gillett Crowd: 2,514 Yellow cards:GCU - Bas VAN DEN BRINK 53' NQF - Ramazan TAVSANCIOGLU 31', Jack HINGERT 47', Eric AKOTO 62', Adam CASEY 75', Mark HUGHES 86'
Sydney FC: 1 (Juho MAKELA 90'+1) Melbourne Victory: 1 (Danny ALLSOPP 51') Saturday, 15 January 2010 Sydney Football Stadium, SydneyLocal kick-off: 7:30pm Referee: Matthew Breeze Crowd: 11,387 Yellow cards:SYD - Matthew JURMAN 35' MV - RICARDINHO 28', Carlos HERNANDEZ 81', Tomislav PONDELJAK 84', Michael PETKOVIC 90'+2
Perth Glory: 1 (Todd HOWARTH 34') Melbourne Heart: 1 (Alex TERRA 70') Saturday, 15 January 2010 nib Stadium, Perth Local kick-off: 6:45pm Referee: Gerard Parsons Crowd: 7,962 Yellow cards:PG - nil MH - nil
Newcastle Jets: 0 Central Coast Mariners:2 (Matt SIMON 14', John HUTCHINSON 87') Sunday, 16 January 2010 EnergyAustralia Stadium, Newcastle Local kick-off: 5:00pm Referee: Chris Beath Crowd: 13,463 Yellow cards:NJ - Marcello FIORENTINI 62', JESIC 70', Sasho PETROVSKI 90'+2 CCM - nil